The Tel Aviv District Court has ruled that Tunisian Jews living under the Nazi regime merit equal legal standing to their European counterpart, and are eligible for reparations under the Victims of Nazi Persecution Law, Yedioth Ahronoth reported Friday.
Up until the court’s decision, the Finance Ministry rejected all claims made by Tunisian Jews for a government stipend as victims of Nazi persecution, claiming that the law in question applies only to refugees forced to flee their homeland following Nazi occupation.
Tunisian Jews, the ministry stated, remained Tunisian citizens all throughout the Holocaust, even though the Nazis occupied the country for six months and clearly persecuted Jewish residents living therein.
Two prominent activists working towards garnering legal standing for Tunisian Jews as Nazi victims, Yehudha Teshuvha and attorney David Etzion, said Thursday that there are approximately 20,000 Tunisian Jews living in Israel today that can be legally recognized as victims of Nazi persecution. This would make them eligible for a monthly government stipend of roughly $333.
During World War II, two separate regimes operated in Tunisia simultaneously. On the one hand, the country was a French protectorate, but on the other hand it also enjoyed it own independent government. For six months, however, between November 1942 and May 1943, the country found itself under Nazi rule.
Where as the Nazis were not allowed to exterminate the local Jewish population and implement the “final solution” in Tunisia, chiefly due to resistance by the local community and the independent Tunisian government, many within the Jewish community were arrested, and forced to don the infamous “yellow star”. Tunisian Jews were also forced to pay fines and were often physically harassed.
Law did not recognize Tunisian JewsConcurrent to signing a reparations agreement with Germany, Israel instituted the Law of Invalids (Victims of Nazi Persecution), entitling anyone who was persecuted by the Nazis, and who was left a refugee during Nazi occupation, to a government stipend. Where as European Jews qualified for such reparations, Tunisian Jews did not since they were never forced to leave their homeland during Nazi occupation.
In the court’s decision, justices noted that where as Tunisian Jews theoretically maintained their Tunisian citizenship during Nazi occupation, this was a meaningless designation seeing as the country was not independent at the time, but rather a French protectorate.
Furthermore, France did not recognize Tunisia’s residents as French citizens. The court thus ruled that the Finance Ministry cannot categorically deny all reparation claims made by Tunisian Jews.